Star Wars and Streaming: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment


Star Wars Didn’t Invent the Modern Blockbuster, The Empire Strikes Back Did
Matt Singer | Screen Crush
“It might seem like a small distinction, because The Empire Strikes Back is a sequel to Star Wars and couldn’t exist without it, but it’s a critical one. Although Empire is a direct continuation of Star Wars’ story, featuring all of the original film’s cast, it is its own animal in terms of tone, pacing, structure, and the circumstances behind its development, production, and release.”

Streaming TV Isn’t Just a New Way to Watch. It’s a New Genre.
James Poniewozik | The New York Times
“The streaming services assume they own your free time, whenever it comes—travel, holidays, weekends—to fill with five-and 10-hour entertainments … In other words, they schedule their shows like Hollywood movies. Streaming is like a vast multiplex where every screen is playing The Mahabharata. It expects commitment—and gets it.”

Men Explain Lolita to Me
Rebecca Solnit | Literary Hub
“You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us.”

The First Black Trans Model Had Her Face on a Box of Clariol
Jada Yuan and Aaron Wong | The Cut
“We’re living in a time when trans models like Lea T and Andreja Pejic have been the faces of Redken and Make Up For Ever, and Caitlyn Jenner has been celebrated on the cover of Vanity Fair. This kind of cultural acceptance makes it easy to lose sight of how dangerous it was 40 years ago—and still can be today—for women like Norman to just walk down a street.”

The Female Body of Punk
Ivan Kreilkamp | Public Books
“One welcome effect of this canonizing process has been a recent wave of new memoirs by some of the major female punk and post-punk innovators: a collection of books that allow us better to apprehend some of the possibilities for sex and gender experiment that briefly opened up, and quickly shut down, as punk took form in the U.S. and Britain in the mid- and late 1970s.”

The Year in Natural Hair
Pilot Viruet | Hazlitt
“This year, as I covered my hair in straightener products and regularly tried to use heat to iron it stick-straight, I watched these women on television—and watched black women in my own life, and on Twitter—embrace, document, and celebrate their natural hair, and I knew that I could do the same. But I had to first get rid of all the self-hating and negative connotations surrounding natural hair that had been ingrained in me throughout my life.”

Patriotism on Broadway
The Economist
“Unlike most stories about America’s intrepid first steps as a country, Hamilton resembles much of the nation as it is now. All of those dead white men and women have been energetically reincarnated by an excellent cast of mostly African American and Latino actors. At a stroke, the show reasserts the way America has always been a nation of striving immigrants and outsiders, and that the country’s story is the property of all Americans—even those whose ancestors may have started out as property themselves.”

The Best Film Scenes of 2015
The Editors | A.V. Club
“Without TV-style cutting, the scene also tosses out TV-style commentary; the whole thing unfolds with great immediacy, aided by sound design that simulates the camera’s position in the ring, rather than an evenly mixed macro perspective. For a few minutes, Creed’s whole world is contained within the boxing ring, and the audience is right there with him.”

Get Rich or Die Vlogging: The Sad Economics of Internet Fame
Gaby Dunn | Fusion
“The high highs and low lows leave me reeling. One week, I was stopped for photos six times while perusing comic books in downtown L.A. The next week, I sat faceless in a room of 40 people vying for a menial courier job. I’ve walked a red carpet with $80 in my bank account. Popular YouTube musician Meghan Tonjes said she performed on Vidcon’s MainStage this year to screaming, crying fans without knowing whether she’d be able to afford groceries.”